Discover St. Paul’s Black History in a storymap and walks – test upload

By Tanja Aminata Bah, MA Curator-in-training at  M Shed / Social History Team

Discover Black History in St. Paul’s via a story map and walks
Always wanted to find out more about your local area? Ever wondered where the Bamboo Club was or where the St.Paul’s riots started? St. Paul’s is full of exciting stories waiting to be discovered with this new handy introduction to Black History in the area.

Over the course of the last year, I have been placed with Bristol Culture’s Social History Team at M Shed and Blaise Castle House Museum as part of my MA Curating at UWE Bristol. My interest in Black History, engagement and innovation through digital media in museum spaces lead me to my creating a story map reimagining, preserving and documenting key Black Bristolian stories as my final project. The map offers not just stories, which I gathered via a call out for information, but also showcases some unique, not yet published archival imagery of St. Paul’s and people in the area.
The map is fully integrated with Google Maps for Android and iPhones and can be used here in your browser.

How to use the map?

The map has different layers, which can be navigated via clicking (this icon). The map works best on mobile devices such as Android and iPhones. Simply open this blog post in your browser and click the enlarge icon in the right corner. This will lead you to the Google Maps integration, where you can scroll through the tours and layers of the map on the go.

Walking tours online

I have designed three unique walking tours, giving you insights while you explore the area. If you enable your GPS signal on your phone the tours will even lead you from stop to stop.

  1. Only have an hour to spare? Essential St. Paul’s is your brief 101 to St. Paul’s African Caribbean history since the 1950s. The hour-long stroll follows a leisurely flat course around the heart of St. Paul’s, Grosvenor road? and City Road and offers plenty to see in a short time. If you haven’t got internet on the go you can also download and print out a leaflet here.
  2. If you want to explore for a bit longer you can try out the walk Before The Riots. The walk is flat and will lead you from the Bamboo Club near Portland Square to the Empire Sports Club near St. Agnes, exploring St. Paul’s between 1950 and 1980.
  3. Want it all? The Full Walk will lead you from the Bamboo Club to Ashley Parade on a 2hour uphill course. You will learn all about the African Caribbean community in St.Paul’s and Montpellier before heading to St.Werburghs to learn about two Victorian and Edwardian Black Bristolian families.

St. Paul’s Vibes

While you are out and about exploring you can listen to a selection of my favourite tracks that remind me of St. Paul’s, including many Bristolian artists such as massive attack alongside classics of Calypso and Roots Reggae, which enjoyed a popular following in St. Paul’s.

Finding out more

Got curious and want to find out more about some stories? Here is a handy list to find out more about Black History in and around St. Paul’s.  

The project would not have been possible without my mentor Catherine Littlejohns, curator of Social History, as well as the kind support of Bristol Museum, M Shed, Bristol Archives and UWE staff alongside local stakeholders. Thank you!

Tanja Aminata Bah (Twitter: @jakumata, tanja2.bah@live.uwe.ac.uk)  is a MA Curating Student at UWE Bristol and is placed as curator- in- training with M Shed and the Social History team. In her studies, she is interested in the crossroads between history, representation and digital developments in the heritage field. She holds a B.A. in History and African Studies from University of Cologne.   Her studies are supported by the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation. 

Exhibitions online

We recently (softly softly) went live with Exhibitions Online.

A place to translate our in-house exhibitions for an online audience, we worked with Mike and Luke at Thirty8 Digital to create a narrative structure with scroll-through content and click-through chapters on WordPress. They built in lovely features such as object grids, timelines, slideshows, maps and quotes.

There are a few exhibitions already up, past (death: the human experience) present (Empire through the Lens) and future (What is Bristol Music?). We’ve most recently used it for our European Old Masters gallery to showcase a beautiful painting we have on loan for two years: St Luke Drawing the Virgin and Child by Dieric Bouts (I discovered the Pantone app with this one, taking the red from the gallery to use online. V satisfying). I’m currently working with the exhibition team to get our Pliosaurus! exhibition up – watch this space for some fun things with that one, which we’re hoping to use for interp in our Sea Dragons gallery at Bristol Museum & Art Gallery too.

(For the What is Bristol Music? exhibition opening in May 2018, we’re using WP plugin Gravity Forms to collate peoples’ experiences and pictures of the Bristol music scene to be featured in the physical exhibition. Chip in if you have a story to tell.)

So far, we’ve found the content and arrangement really depends on the exhibition. The idea isn’t to simply put the physical exhibition online (I say ‘simply’, as if it would be) but instead to use the format and content of the exhibition to engage with people in a different environment: albeit one where we’re competing with a thousand other things for people’s attention. Exhibitions which have been and gone have been slightly more challenging, as the content was never intended for this use and has needed some wrangling. The more we use it though the smoother the process is getting, now that we know what we need and it being on teams’ plans as something to consider.

We’re still in the early stages of reviewing analytics to see how people are using it. Initial results are heartening, though, with a few thousand visits having had minimal promotion. At the moment most people are finding it from our what’s on pages (where most of our traffic to the main website is anyway) and we’re thinking about what campaigns we can do to get it out there more.

Any feedback or thoughts, hmu → fay.curtis@bristol.gov.uk

MA Final Project St. Paul’s Black History virtual map – Beta

Hi! I am Tanja, a current MA Curating student at UWE, placed as a Curator in training with the Social History Team in Bristol Culture since January 2017. I am interested in engagement work, black history and innovation through digital media in museums. Aside from assisting the Social History Team, I became involved with mainly digital developments, writing up a project proposal to redevelop the “Big Question Displays” in M Shed to address Brexit on a limited budget, as part of my course and writing up a new online collection highlight on “Green Bristol”. For my final project I aimed to contribute to the service through piloting something new and innovative, but rather budget friendly for the service, that crosscuts my interests.

I decided to develop a customized Google map to document black History in St. Paul’s, capturing some key stories of prominent Black Bristolians that were and are active in the area. Initially planned as a walking tour, one motivation for me was to preserve these stories in an ever-changing St. Paul’s and reimagine these for an online audience, who might want to access the map remotely and as a “gateway” of getting first insides into Black History. While focussing on the African Caribbean community from the 1950s I wanted to design something speaking to digital natives and older generations alike. One of my inspirations was “Black Histories London”, a research project capturing the black presence in London from 1958 to 1981 by Rob Waters, who works for University of Sussex and the Sussex Humanities Lab.

I started contacting local stakeholders in June to September, reached out via our Bristol Museums blog and researched intensively in the archives, while tracing back old material from other service affiliated projects such as the Black Bristolian Learning Resource and the Bristol Black Archives Partnership, to combine information into this new digital offering.

Over the last months, I developed a prototype, that I wanted to share with you as an early beta test to gather feedback. The prototype will be trailed with some members of the Bristol Culture Youth Panel on Wednesday 8th November 2017, in a feedback workshop, as well. Although this prototype is fully functional, it is not yet revised in its size and scope as such. Texts for the stations are still earliest drafts, some pictures will change, and some stations will not end up in the final version.

At the moment I am looking at the following questions:

  • How is the layout and design working?
  • Should I use multiple layers sorting stories after themes, instead of one full layer?
  • Should I do a second map for possible walking routes or work in one map with layers?
  • How are the texts and the stations? Are they fully understandable? Does it contain unneccessary information?

 

The project is already fully integrated and tested into the google map app for Android and iPhones. To access it on the go, the user needs to open this blog post (and later the final blog post) with their browser and then click the “fullscreen”/ enlarge icon. This should automatically open the map on the google maps app.

The end product will be offered to the public via a blog post in late November and will hopefully be supplemented by a “Discover and Walk your own” Guide/Booklet as a pdf download. I am currently also seeking out possibilities to further integrate the legacy of the project in form of the map as a QR code label into M Shed.

It would be great to hear your feedback and ideas for improvement as well as general thoughts on this project. I have created a google survey to fill with your impressions and ideas. The form is completely anonymous and does not require any personal data here!
After the Youth Panel Workshop I will try to start systematically evaluating the different tools and map types I discovered and how this pilot is proceeding.

Off-line surveys: successfully not losing data

Losing survey data is a pain – unfortunately the events team lost six events worth of survey data they collected using off-line surveys. The team used iPads (cost per iPad is c.£320) to conduct surveys on software which was sourced outside our team (I’m not sure what system it was). They used the software on the basis that it claimed to offer off-line surveys i.e. without an internet connection /wi-fi. The idea was that they data could then be uploaded once the iPad was connected to the internet. When they came to do so, however, the data was simply not there and they had lost it all.

The events team came to the digital team this year to ask if we could help them with the public surveys for the 2017 Harbour Festival. The festival is held across much of Bristol City Centre and therefore in order to conduct surveys digitally using iPads we would need to do so without having to rely on having a wifi connection.Of course, one option would be to conduct the surveys with good old pen and paper, but as a digital-first service we were happy to accept the challenge.

One of the main reasons we want to avoid paper surveys is because it is time consuming and difficult to digitise the survey results. It requires someone to sit at a computer and manually input results. Staff resources are often limited and this is a job we’d rather not have to give ourselves. Practically, paper can also be unruly, there are issues with handwriting legibility and they are easy to lose when relying on volunteers to collect them so a digital a solution is very desirable.

The challenge came down to finding the right software that I could install on the iPad and test, and that didn’t cost too much. Our usual platform for conducting surveys on iPads where we do have an internet connection is SurveyMonkey (we pay for the gold subscription £230 per year). Unfortunately, off-line surveys are not a feature available on SurveyMonkey.

These are a few Apps I tried to use but weren’t right for one reason or another:

  • Qualtrics – poor trialling options and expensive for full features £65 for one month or £435 for one year
  • iSurveys (harvestyourdata.com) – free account is limited and their main website is difficult to use and I couldn’t work out how much the full feature product was
  • SurveyPocket by QuestionPro – trial difficult to use and full feature pricing only available by contacting the company
  • The one I almost went for: QuickTap Survey & Form Builder – good pricing options from $16 per month and the trial is OK

So, after trawling the internet and the App Store for options the one we went for is an App called Feed2go (www.feed2go.com)

Quick Note: Before I speak about the virtues of Feed2go, I have to make it clear that it is currently only available on the Apple App Store; it is not available on Android devices in the Play Store (quicktap surveys app is available on Android).

I downloaded the feed2go App onto my iPad and and it was ready to go with pretty much all features available – certainly enough to get a feel of whether it was right. Most crucially on the basic/trial version you can conduct off-line surveys and test if the data is secure and can be successfully uploaded – we I did and it worked. A major advantage of the feed2go app is that to access all the app’s features (Pro) is a very reasonable subscription of £2.49 for 1 month; £4.99 for 3 months; or £12.49 for 1 year. At these costs there is virtually no risk in trying the Pro subscription.

If anyone is interested in trying the App, I would suggest going ahead and downloading and having an explore. There are just a couple of things I will highlight:

  • The user interface is nice and clean and easy to use
  • The options for question structures is OK and covers most bases but it is more limited than something like SurveyMonkey
  • Some of the navigation in the App can be a bit clunky especially when designing survey forms, but once you get used to it then it’s fine
  • Probably the most significant feature of feed2go to mention is trying to use the same survey on one device. This is not a particular strong suit of feed2go but it does work. Basically you need to download feed2go on each device you have and then share the survey between them using a cloud storage server – the best one to use in my experience is DropBox. In the App there is an export/import function to share survey forms between devices. This also means that you will need to collate all results from different devices at the end.
  • As noted above, the feed2go app needs to be downloaded on each iPad. In our case all our service iPads are registered to one email address. This means we can use the one subscription across all of our devices. This is not the case if iPads are registered to different email addresses – a subscription will need to be paid for each.

Overall, yes the experience of using the App could be improved a little. But, the main feature we wanted it for – to save the results and successfully upload them worked 100%. I think what distinguishes feed2go from the previously (unsuccessfully) used software was that it operated through a web browser which relied on a cache of temp internet files files. Feed2go is an app which stores the data securely in a folder in the same way the camera stores photos on the iPad. Finally, the FAQ on the feed2go and the email support for the App is great; the developer is really responsive.

We have now used the App to conduct surveys in the estate around Our Blaise Castle House Museum site and we are planning to replace paper exit surveys at our houses (where we don’t have wifi) with the offline App.

If you have any comments or questions about doing offlien surveys or surveys in the cultural sector please get in touch I’m happy to have a chat. darren.roberts@bristol.gov.uk

Going digital with our Exhibition Scheduling Timeline

 

 

developing a digital timeline for scheduling exhibitions

BACKGROUND

Having a visual representation of upcoming exhibitions, works, and major events is important in the exhibition planning process. Rather than relying on spotting dates that clash using lists of data, having a horizontal timeline spread out visually allows for faster cross-checking and helps collaboratively decide on how to plan for exhibition installs and derigs.

 

Until recently we had a system that used excel to plan out this timeline, by merging cells and coloring horizontally it was possible to manually construct a timeline. Apart from the pure joy that comes from printing anything from Excel, there were a number of limitations of this method.

  • When dates changed the whole thing needed to be rejigged
  • Everyone who received a printed copy at meetings stuck that to the wall and so date changes were hard to communicate.
  • We need to see the timeline over different scales – short term and long term, so this means using 2 separate excel tabs for each, hence duplication of effort.
  • We were unable to apply any permissions
  • The data was not interoperable with other systems

TIMELINE SOFTWARE (vis.js)

Thanks to Almende B.V. there is an open source timeline code library available at visjs.org/docs/timeline so this offers a neat solution to the manual task of having to recast the timeline using some creative Excel skills each time. We already have a database of Exhibition dates following our digital signage project and so this was the perfect opportunity to reuse this data, which should be the most up to date version of planned events as it is what we display to the public internally in our venues.

IMPLEMENTATION

The digital timeline was implemented using MEAN stack technology and combines data feeds from a variety of sources. In addition to bringing in data for agreed exhibitions, we wanted a flexible way to add installations, derigs, and other notes and so a new database on the node server combines these dates with exhibitions data. We can assign permissions to different user groups using some open source authentication libraries and this means we can now release the timeline for staff not involved in exhibitions, but also let various teams add and edit their own specific timeline data.

The great thing about vis is the ease of manipulation of the timeline, users are able to zoom in and out, and backward and forwards in time using with mouse, arrow or touch/pinch gestures.

 

Zoomed out view for the bigger picture
Zoomed in for the detail…

EMU INTEGRATION

The management of information surrounding object conservation, loans and movements is fundamental to successful exhibition development and installation. As such we maintain a record of exhibition dates in EMu, our collections management software. The EMu events module is used to record when exhibitions take place and also the object list where curators select and deselect objects for exhibition. Using the EMU API we are able to extract a structured list of Exhibitions information for publishing to the digital timeline.

HOW OUR TIMELINE WORKS

Each gallery or public space has its own horizontal track where exhibitions are published as blocks. These are grouped into our 5 museums and archives buildings and can be selected/deselected from the timeline to cross reference each. Once logged in a user is able ot manually add new blocks to the timeline and these are pre-set to “install”, “derig” and “provisional date”. Once a block is added our exhibitions team are able to add notes that are accessible on clicking the block. It is also possible to reorder and adjust dates by clicking and dragging.

IMPACT

The timeline now means everyone has access to an up to date picture of upcoming exhibitons installations to no one is out of date. The timeline is on a public platform and is mobile accessible so staff can access it on the move, in galleries or at home. Less time is spent on creative Excel manipulation and more work on spotting errors. It has also made scheduling meetings more dynamic, allowing better cross referencing and moving to different positions in time. An unexpected effect is that we are spotting more uses for the solution and are currently investigating the use of it for booking rooms and resources. There are some really neat things we can do such as import a data feed from the timeline back into our MS Outlook calendars  (“oooooh!”). The addition of thumbnail pictures used to advertise exhibitions has been a favorite feature among staff and really helps give an instant impression of current events, since it reinforces the exhibition branding which people are already familiar with.

ISSUES

It is far from perfect! Several iterations were needed to develop the drag and drop feature fo adding events. Also, we are reaching diminishing returns in terms of performance – with more and more data available to plot, the web app is performing slowly and could do with further optimisation to improve speed. Also due to our IT infrastructure, many staff use Internet Explorer and whilst the timeline works OK, many features are broken on this browser without changes to compatibility and caching settings on IE.

WHAT’S NEXT

Hopefully optimisation will improve performance and then it is full steam ahead with developing our resource booking system using the same framework.

 

 

Rowan Whitehouse joins the Digital Team

Hello! My name is Rowan Whitehouse and I am currently working as a cultural support apprentice for Bristol Museums.

I have been doing six week rotations around various departments, and as part of my third, with the digital team, I’ve been asked to review some of the technology around the museum.

So, to find some!

I noticed that the distribution of technology around the museum is heavier in areas with a higher number of children. Whilst there is a lot around the ground floor, particularly the Egypt and Natural History galleries, levels definitely drop off the more steps you climb, towards the Fine and Applied Arts galleries. I think this is due, in part, to many children’s interests leaning on the dinosaur/mummy side, rather than Bristol’s history of stone pub ware. Perhaps there are also certain established ideas about what an art gallery should  be, whereas many of the historic collections lend themselves well to interactive displays.

Upstairs, the technology has a distinctly more mature focus.
I chose to look at a tablet/kiosk in the European Old Masters gallery for an example. The kiosk itself fits well into its surroundings, the slim, white design is unobtrusive – something desirable in such a traditional gallery space. The kiosk serves as an extension of the wall plaques, it has an index of the paintings in the room with information on them. I think this is a great idea as the size of wall plaques often constrain the amount of information available.

A big drawback I felt however, was that the kiosk was static and fixed in one place. I observed that as people moved around the gallery they would continually look from the painting to it’s accompanying plaque, taking in both at the same time. Though the kiosk has more information, it would need to be able to move with the user to have the advantage over the plaques. On the position of the kiosk itself, I think it would receive more use if it was positioned in the middle of the room, rather than in the corner, where it is overlooked. Signage on the wall advertised a webpage, which could be accessed on a handheld device and provided the same information as the kiosk. I felt this was a better use of the index, and could be made even easier to access via a QR code. I wonder though, if people would want to use their phones like this in a gallery, and whether ideas about the way we experience art are the ultimate obstacle. I’ll be researching how other institutions use (or don’t use) technology in their galleries.

I wanted to see how technology is being used differently with the historic collections, so I headed back downstairs to the Egypt gallery. I observed a school group using the computers at the back of the gallery, both the children and their teacher struggled with the unusual keyboard layout and rollerball mouse, unable to figure out how to search. Eventually, they came upon it by chance, and enjoyed navigating the images and learning more about the objects in the gallery. The computers also have a timeline view, showing the history of the Egyptians, and an “Explore” function, where specific subjects could be looked at.

I think the location of the units massively benefit interaction, the dedicated space with chairs really invite and encourage visitors to engage. On using the technology, I felt that the access problems could be easily fixed by some stickers highlighting the left mouse button function, and something to resolve the stiffness of the rollerball.

My favourite interactive pieces in the museum were in the Egypt gallery. I loved the screens that featured the discovery of  a body, and asked the user what they thought about the body being in a museum, and gave the user the option of viewing the body at the end of the text. I felt like this type of interaction was fantastic, and rather than just providing information, engaged the visitor directly and was a great way of broaching questions that may not usually occur to visitors.

I’m looking forward to the next six weeks, and learning more about digital engagement in museums.

With such a fantastic collection, it’s exciting finding new ways of presenting it and helping visitors interact with objects

New locker alert

Photo showing grey lockers

Adding additional lockers to our museums is a top 5 request from the public and staff alike. On Wednesday the 20th September we installed new lockers at Bristol Museum & Art Gallery and M Shed.

Until this week we only had 8 lockers at Bristol Museum & Art Gallery which is not exactly lots when you have 400,000 plus visits. At both museums the lockers have been finished in a suitable RAL colour way. We’ve introduced a £1 non-refundable fee which will initially re-pay the cost of lockers then be used to support our work. Slow money but sure money.

The main considerations for lockers are:

  • Custom brand colours
  • Coin retention lockers
  • The number of doors per locker – 2, 3 or 4 (more lockers more money but less useful if size is important)
  • installation
  • Location in the building
  • Disclaimers and cost messaging

The install didn’t quite go to plan. I asked for lockers. I got lockers. However I also needed the following which I hadn’t specified:

  • Numbered lockers – inserts so that the public can remember which locker they used
  • Numbered key fobs – the public need to know which key they have
  • Nuts and bolts – to connect each locker together and to the wall to eliminate the chance for the locker to tip over

I purposely located a bank of lockers in the corridor so that they’ll be in the sightline of visitors to the front hall. Previously the lockers were tucked away and a constant frustration for visitors. Regular readers will know one of my favourite quotes “Address the user need and the business need will be clear”.

Retail will be responsible for collecting the income with this new welcome income stream.

I was chuffed when one of our Visitor Assistants said “I’ve been here over 10 years and never thought I’d see the day we added extra lockers”.

If you remember to address the bullet points above you’ll have a smooth installation. Good luck.

Results of running a shop in the front hall

Photo of our front hall shop

Just before summer started I wrote about taking the plunge having an additional small shop in the front hall at Bristol Museum and Art Gallery throughout the summer. Summer is over and so is our shop, for now. This post is a summary of performance. In short, the shop was worth doing with the following results:

  • 10% of total sales for the month or £5,300 net sales
  • 939 orders
  • 2% conversion (confirmed it was additional sales not just taking sales from main shop)
  • Same ATV as main shop despite selling far fewer products
  • Staffing costs were covered by moving the second retail assistant from the main shop
  • £400 on a whacking huge shop sign (pictured) and a few units to supplement existing available units
  • Answered countless public enquiries

I would have been kicking myself if we hadn’t tried to push the retail needle and i’m glad we did. We had our most successful month on record and met our income target. The front hall shop helped us over the line in this respect. We started on day 1 of the school summer holiday without much of a plan other than a hunch the products should be suitable for kids and tourists. Over the course of the project we chopped and changed the products as the teams powers of observation dictated.

Staffing

Finding staff at short notice proved to be a challenge with a few moments but fortunately the team including our brilliant casual pool came to the rescue. I asked the team for feedback throughout the project. Everyone on the front hall shop said they enjoyed the shifts and kept busy in the quiet periods by pricing and preparing products. As expected they also answered lots of public enquiries and raised awareness of our retail offer. The main shop coped with having one person instead of two but this made their work full-on and its much appreciated. We will use the feedback to see how we can better ease the load in the coming year, especially dealing with deliveries.

Product selection

We used the existing products from our range and started with best sellers with a Bristol theme. We thought this would appeal to the tourists. However the Bristol theme didn’t really push the needle so we switched to more ‘kids’ and ‘home’ which proved successful.  I really wanted to try a selection of jewellery but the hall is used frequently for evening events so we decided this could wait until a future project.

Positive fringe benefits

We don’t have staff permanently in our front hall anymore so having staff here was good for the public enquiries. The hall is large and having visitors milling around the shop gave a nice vibe to the space. Staff received lots of positive comments about the offer and many said they’d be back for Christmas shopping. Some visitors completely miss the fact we have a shop so this made sure 100% knew we had an offer.

Next time

I have decided that the front hall shop should come back at high visitor times so October half-term and then from late November until the end of the school holidays. We need to plan the range further in advance and be very mindful that December is peak evening event season so everything must be easily movable. We did indeed push the needle.

Onwards!

Pushing the needle: a shop in our fron thall

Photo of front hall shop on day 1

Each year until at least 2022 we need to grow our retail revenue and profitability by 10% or greater. At Bristol Museum & Art Gallery our retail is typical of the sector in converting about 10% of visitors into shoppers. For us, this will not be enough to do what we need to do. But we must hit our target.

To work out if you have any hope of making your target you need to do a little maths:

  • Divide the total number of visitors by the expected number of shoppers to get your conversion rate e.g 10%
  • Take your expected Average Transaction Value (ATV) and multiple this by your conversion rate to get a baseline amount of sales revenue you expect to generate – remember sales are not profit
  • Take your baseline expected sales and divide by the expected visitor numbers to get your Spend Per Head (SPH)

The problem should be obvious…. an average is basically an assumption that IF A + B + C happens then success!

It is good to have a working set of data, averages and assumptions to use as a baseline but we can’t run our retail on assumptions and need to try everything to maximise sales. I know that to have more confidence in our programme we need to keep poking the box to try to positively increase our conversion and thus sales.

The best way to get the conversion up to is raise awareness to the visitor that we have a shop offer and try to affect behaviour. Our front hall has 100% of our visitors passing through.

During the summer holiday we’re testing the idea that more exposure should increase sales by introducing a small shop located in the front hall. This project will inform our future plans for growing the retail business which may include moving the location of the main shop.

The outline business case is below:

  1. A visually attractive retail offer located in the front hall will undoubtedly increase awareness of a retail offer in the Museum. Although improvements have been made to the entrance of the main shop including introducing a large bookstand and jewellery stand, some visitors still miss the retail offer. This project will hopefully encourage impulse buying and whilst signposting to the main shop either now or for Christmas.
  2. As an example we used a pop up shop for Chinese New Year which increased sales by 18% on the previous year 2015-2016. This also avoided the big queues in the shop and congestion in the entrance and exit in the shop which aids the visitor experience
  3. There will be almost no investment costs, as we already have the equipment needed to set up a small shop.
  4. Staff costs will be met using the current budget by moving the second retail assistant to the front hall. The downside of course will be less ability to deal with deliveries and some customers who want assistance.
  5. The shop in the front hall will be open daily during summer school holidays 24th July -1st September and be mobile enough to be able to close and move for any evening events.
  6. The space taken for the shop would measure 9ft (2.7 mtrs) by 11ft (3.4 mtrs).
  7. Meeting the potential for growth – going on last year’s August figs of ATV at £6.18 an increase of 5% conversion could lead to an increase £10,000.
  8. Hopefully a secondary benefit is that this will reduce queue pressure on the main shop
  9. Use the opportunity to engage the visitors about our cafe and exhibition Pliosaurus

So how did we do the first week?

Sales in the front hall accounted for 13% of sales. The first two days we were finding our feet so i’d expect this to increase in the coming week. At this stage we can’t tell if this has simply taken a share of the main shop’s sales or increased sales overall… we need to compare a few data sources and experiment with the product range…. watch this space!

How to get rid of VGA after 30 years!

Here at the M Shed in Bristol, we have amazing views of the harbor from our lovely events suit. Here we hold all sorts of events from large annual AGMs for corporations’, to weddings and some really great community events.

 

We have a fully automated integrated audio visual system. With AMX and Creston control systems, you can walk around the function rooms holding a smart, touch screen control panel and control just about everything! You can power up the projectors, lower the screens, open and shut the blinds, control volumes, select what to display from Sky TV, Blu-ray players and laptops, you can even change the lighting to any colour scheme you want.

 

It’s all pretty smart. Pretty smart apart from the dreaded Video Graphics Array as the main interface, more commonly referred to as the VGA connector! For all this advanced technology, presenters still have to connect their devices with a cable.
The VGA standard was invented in 1987 by IBM, and its dreaded 15 pin D Sub connector still to this day refuses to go away.
Until now…

 
There’s something amiss when a presenter asks to use their nice, brand new iPad to run their presentation and you then have to use a lighting port to VGA adapter connected to 10 meter VGA cable. These VGA connectors were designed for permanent installation and so when they are swapped between laptop and other devices several times a day, the 15 tiny pins take a battering and it only takes one bent pin for the screen to go pink, blue or stop all together.

Here comes the ingenious solution to take advantage of the wireless / Wi-Fi capabilities that are now standard for all devices.

The idea and solution comes in the form of finding a combination of ready available, off the shelf technology combined in such a way it allows the transmission of a device’s screen to appear on our projection system, without any wires. We needed this to be augmented into our current system without affecting its current capabilities. It is already a great intergraded AV system, it’s just needs to be brought into the future without losing its ability to use the old VGA system. It may be old but it works so well as a last resort and backup.

Apple products long ago ditched the VGA system in favour of min-display ports or “lighting ports”. A quick trip to any Apple store and an assistant will enthusiastically show how with a flick of the devices, a display can be “thrown” to another screen. It’s called Air Play and is Apple’s secure version of Wi-Fi streaming.

Google, with their ever innovative developments, have developed a technology called Chrome Cast to the same effect, which is also based on Wi-Fi streaming.

With delegates at our events bringing Apple products, PCs and android devices, we needed an all in one system; so purchased these products to enable this streaming. I ordered an Apple TV and a Chrome Cast device which both work by connecting to a Wi-Fi network and looking for compatible devices. Both of these provide a solution for all devices. Chrome Cast is much cheaper than Apple TV and can support Apple products too, but the ease of use and reliability of Apple on Apple products seemed worth the extra investment. I calculated the cost of replacement VGA cables and at the current rate we replace them, these new items would pay for themselves in just three years!

The main issue I faced in integrating these was how to patch them into a fully automated, closed AV system without affecting its capabilities. In essence, how to “retrofit” an Apple TV and Chrome Cast and get the systems to talk over M Shed’s Wi-Fi – a public network, effectively part of the councils IT network and heavily locked down.
To solve the first issue, I had to literally climb into the AV racking system to find a suitable part that interfaced with an HDMI connector (both Chrome Cast and Apple TV use HDMI). I chose our SKY TV box and unplugged its HDMI cable. Onto this cable I place a HDMI switcher, which allows 4 inputs to connect as one. The switcher is the sort of device you would buy if your TV at home only has one HDMI port and you had multiple devices you wanted to connect: a DVD player, games console and a Freeview box. I then connected the Sky box to the switcher along with the Apple TV and Chrome Cast unit. Then after finding power outlets, whilst still inside the AV systems rack, I carefully slid the switcher unit so its control switch faced out the front of the rack. A few cables ties and some Velcro later and the hardware was installed, all that was left to do was to climb out and check it all worked.

Going back to the Creston AV touch panel, I selected Sky TV and sure enough it appeared on the projections screen as it should. Then by using the controls on the switcher unit I was able to toggle between Sky, Apple TV and Chrome Cast.
It then occurred to me that both the Apple and Chrome devices use the HDMI to output their audio too. However the HDMI feeds to the projector which only projects the image, so audio would be lost. Climbing back into the AV rack, I noticed that the Sky box was using analog RCA connectors to output its audio to integrated ceiling speaker system. Fortunately the switcher also had 3.5mm TRS output (headphone socket), so by setting the Sky box to output audio through its HMDI it meant that all three devices were now feeding the audio and visual signal to the switcher. Then by using the RCA connector from the Sky box with the TRS adapter, all three devices were now feeding to the ceiling speaker system. I climbed back out of the rack and started to create a new, independent Wi-Fi network for devices to communicate.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The new Wi-Fi network was actually the simpler part.
I purchased an ASUS RT-AC3200 Tri-Band Giga-Bit Wi-Fi router. This router is enormous with six aerials and looks like the Batmobile. I figured that it would have to be reliable and be able to cope with large amount of data traffic, so I got the most powerful but cost effective router I could find.

The idea behind the router was to have all the devices (Apple TV, Chrome Cast and whichever device is streaming) all on the same network, a network I could manage. Once on the same network, it was a matter of connecting. The Apple system was really straight forward- you join the same Wi-Fi network as the Apple TV (I named the network “presentations”) then chose the Airplay option on the device and as easy as that the screen is mirrored on the projector. The Chrome set up was a little more involved. With an android device, you have to install an app called Chrome Cast. Once installed it’s quite straight forward to pair with the Chrome Cast receiver and then the screen can be mirrored on the projector. With a Windows PC laptop, I had to install the latest version of Chrome. This then comes with the option to cast either just the browser tab you’re using or the whole desktop -this works well but compared to the Apple TV there is a slight lag. In some instances you would have to install the Chrome Cast extension for Chrome.

I also connected the Wi-Fi router to our open Wi-Fi system with a RJ45 cable. This then allowed people on the Presentation Wi-Fi to still be able to access the net.
We are still trialing the system before we start to officially offer it as part of a package, but so far so good. It has been received very positively from users. We’ve had people walking around with iPads – controlling their presentation and not being tied to the lectern with an old pc. We’ve even had the best man at a wedding wirelessly control the music playlist from his iPhone at the top table! PCs are still being used at the lectern as normal but without the need to trail VGA cable everywhere. The only thing left to work out is wireless power… I suppose batteries will have to do for now.